In an era of increasing environmental consciousness and fluctuating fuel prices, the choice of what goes into your vehicle's tank can be a matter of careful consideration.

Premium petrol options are often marketed as superior choices, promising benefits ranging from improved performance to lower emissions. But are these upgrades worth the extra cost? In this article we will cover: 

Let's delve into the world of premium fuels to determine whether they are a good investment for your vehicle.

Premium petrol explained

Premium petrol, often referred to as high-octane petrol, is a grade of fuel that boasts a higher octane rating than regular unleaded petrol. Octane rating measures a fuel's resistance to knocking or pinging during combustion. A higher octane rating allows for greater compression in the engine without premature detonation, which can enhance performance in certain vehicles. 

How does premium unleaded petrol affect performance and fuel economy?

Premium unleaded petrol can provide certain performance benefits, primarily in high-performance or high-compression engines. The higher octane rating allows for more aggressive engine tuning, potentially increasing horsepower and torque output. However, these improvements are most noticeable in sports cars or high-performance vehicles.

In terms of fuel economy, the impact of premium unleaded petrol can vary. Some vehicles may experience slightly better fuel efficiency due to the optimised combustion characteristics, but the difference is often marginal. The greatest improvements are typically seen in older vehicles or those specifically designed for high-octane fuel.

Does premium unleaded petrol lower emissions?

Premium unleaded petrol may lead to slightly reduced emissions in some vehicles. The more controlled combustion process can result in lower levels of certain pollutants. However, the reduction is usually minimal, and the impact on overall emissions is limited.

To make a notable difference in emissions, alternative fuels or hybrid/electric vehicles are more effective choices.

Is premium unleaded an E5 or E10 fuel?

Premium unleaded petrol can come in both E5 and E10 formulations, depending on regional regulations and market demand. E5 contains up to 5% ethanol, while E10 contains up to 10%. Some vehicles may be designed to run on E10, but make sure to consult your vehicle's owner's manual to ensure compatibility.

Which cars should use premium unleaded?

The necessity of using premium unleaded petrol largely depends on your vehicle's engine specifications. High-performance vehicles with turbochargers or superchargers often benefit from the higher octane rating. However, most mainstream vehicles with standard engines and compression ratios do not require premium fuel.

How much more expensive is premium unleaded petrol?

Premium unleaded petrol is typically more expensive than regular unleaded petrol, with price differentials varying by region. The cost difference can range from 15-20p per litre or more. Over time, these additional costs can add up, impacting your overall fuel expenses.

Can you mix regular unleaded and premium unleaded?

Yes, you can mix regular unleaded and premium unleaded petrol without causing harm to your vehicle. Most modern engines are equipped with sensors and engine control systems that can adapt to different fuel octane levels. If you accidentally mix the two, your vehicle will likely adjust its performance parameters to accommodate the fuel blend. However, you should still use the recommended fuel type whenever possible to optimise your vehicle's performance and fuel efficiency.

Is it worth paying more for premium petrol?

The decision to use premium unleaded petrol ultimately boils down to your vehicle's requirements and your driving habits. If you own a high-performance vehicle that explicitly recommends or requires premium fuel, it's best to follow those guidelines to maximise performance. However, for most everyday vehicles with standard engines, using regular unleaded petrol can actually be more cost-effective. 

In summary, while premium unleaded petrol can offer some advantages in terms of performance and potential emissions reduction, the benefits may not justify the added expense for the majority of drivers.

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